The Palazzo Vecchio is such an impressive building with its square shape and high tower that it’s easy to overlook a small, but very special portrait on the outside wall of the Florentine city hall. I must have passed it a hundred times without knowing about it or noticing it, until I read about it in an Italian book.
On the wall, right of the entrance, you can see the portrait of an unknown man chiseled in one of the stones.
Popular urban legend has it that it was Michelangelo Buonarroti who created the portrait after taking on a bet that he would be able to do it with his back turned towards the wall, without looking at what he was doing.
Another story tells how Michelangelo passed the Palazzo Vecchio one day and under the Loggia dei Lanzi he spotted a man in the pillory who owed him money. He asked the guard who was watching the unfortunate for how much longer the punishment would last and the guard answered: “Not long enough”. To make sure that the Florentine people would remember the criminal for a long time, he chiseled the man’s face on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio. The portrait can still be found there today, you only have to know where to look for it.